As my driver pulled up to the Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort, I was rejoiced to see a recent multi-million-dollar renovation spared the property’s beautiful front porte cochère. With a sweeping view from the lobby straight out to the Caribbean Sea, the open-air arrival is a stunner from the very start. It certainly caught my attention more than a dozen years ago, when I first stayed at the resort with my husband and young son. Now on a solo assignment, I was just as smitten by its seascape, and couldn’t wait to check out all the changes achieved during the down-to-the-studs glow-up.
Immediately after check-in, I dropped off my bags, changed into a swimsuit and grabbed my snorkel gear. 15 minutes after arrival, I was skimming the refreshing waters just off the resort’s white sand beach, marveling at the massive bunches of brain coral and peering down at the colorful fish darting through the reef.
That’s the terrific thing about Curaçao: there are plenty of opportunities for adventure. And the Marriott Beach Resort, just a few minutes outside the island’s capital city of Willemstad, is the perfect home base for all the island has to offer.
The rooms at the Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort
That home-base feeling starts as soon as you get to your room. The resort’s 328 guest rooms and eight suites have all the amenities you’d expect — luxe bedding, a huge flatscreen TV, soothing décor, private balconies, a small lounging area, Nespresso coffeemaker, and a workspace — as well as a few welcome surprises like extensive built-in shelves leading to the bathroom area. Everything had a place, so my room never felt cluttered.
Those special touches went in when the resort underwent a $40 million renovation and reopened in 2019, which added a fourth floor to each of the resort’s guest buildings; axed the dingy, smoky casino; and reimagined the culinary offerings.
Accommodations range from two queen beds with a garden or limited ocean view to spacious, ocean-front one-bedroom suites. Room prices start at about $400 a night including taxes and service charges.
Amenities at the Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort
The Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort’s undisputed star amenity is, well, its beach. The fine white sand gives way to bigger rocks, so if you’re a tenderfoot water-shoes are a must. The sea is warm, crystal clear, and teeming with colorful sea life like tangs, parrotfish, angelfish, and zebra morays. If you forget your snorkel gear, purchase some at the resort to not miss out.
If salt water isn’t your thing, the resort has two infinity pools: one family and one adult, both lined with palm and plumeria trees. Private poolside cabanas can be snagged early in the morning at no extra charge. The staff works exceedingly hard to keep both areas spotless, and there is poolside drink and food service available. I found it a bit odd that the adult-only pool was mostly cordoned off for lap-swimming, as I didn’t see anyone take advantage of that fact while I was there, but the adjacent hot tub was a great place to unwind quietly and peacefully.
Additional resort amenities include massage services; a pay-per-day Reef Club serving breakfast, happy hour cocktails, and evening desserts; daily activities on the resort; and a kids’ club. The gym was airy with newer equipment inside, the giant chess set and ping-pong table both fun bits of whimsy, and the small onsite botanical garden was the perfect spot to enjoy a moment or two of zen.
Last but certainly not least, the resort’s on-site dive shop Goby Divers gives both experienced divers and beginners the chance to further explore the waters around the resort.
While the help of my ever-patient instructor Ima, I completed my first-ever scuba dive. While we were underwater, she pointed out the resort’s coral farm, designed to restore and maintain the reefs.
Restaurants at the Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort
There are four main dining options from which to choose. My favorite was C-Spice, featuring Caribbean cuisine with European and Latin American influences. The tuna crudo with limoncello dressing is melt-in-your mouth delicious, as is the grouper and tabbouleh salad that’s served with a welcome addition of watermelon.
Zala Gastro Bar, located just off the main lobby, leans into pub fare with local flair — think locally caught fish, yucca fries, and grilled veggies. The adjacent Izakaya Sushi Bar serves tasty but rather basic rolls. The resort’s outdoor restaurant, Salty Iguana Ocean Grill, focuses on burgers, sandwiches, and quesadillas — quintessential family-friendly fast-food — with service on the beach, in the grill’s seating area, and at both pools.
Grab and go options are available early in the morning through the evening at the Papiamentu Marketplace that gets its name from Curaçao’s Portuguese- and Spanish-based Creole that most locals speak. I picked up an after-dinner slice of pistachio cake here and it was delicious.
What to do on Curacao
I’ve been to the island before, and had already explored the famed Hato Caves, Shete Boka Park with its curious blowholes, and took an ATV tour. The resort can help arrange all those activities, as well as catamaran trips, golf outings, and much more. Since this was my second visit, I wanted to get more of a culture fix. When I explained that to the guest services staff, they booked me a private tour with an incredible local guide, Tyrone Brunken.
During a stop to the island’s Kura Hulanda Museum, I learned more about Curaçao’s difficult history and its role in the Dutch West India Company’s slave trade. Brunken also shared the story of Tula, who, in 1795, led a month-long slave revolt and freedom fight for which he was executed. Today, he’s considered a national hero. It’s a heavy past, and one worth getting off the beach to learn more about.
A walk through Willemstad, with its candy-colored buildings and melting pot vibe, was also on the itinerary. Here, I sampled Curaçao liqueur, an orange-flavored cocktail ingredient with a blue color, and learned how it’s made at Senior and Company. After a bit of off-roading, lunch was at a local fish restaurant where dessert included freshly cleaved coconuts, and the day ended with a late-afternoon snorkel at an off-the-beaten-path beach. A hot-pink flamingo sighting at one of the island’s many marshes topped off the day.
Bottom line: there’s much more to Curaçao than sand, sun, and the sea. I’m glad I got to know the island and its people a bit better this time around, with Tyrone’s help.
How to get to Curaçao
Arriving to the island from the States is easier than ever thanks to additional nonstop flights from New York, Miami, and Charlotte into Willemstad’s Hato Airport. From there, the Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort is a 15-minute drive away.